Fool’s Hardy

Today at the Comics Journal, we're bearing down for the annual onslaught of April Fool's themed marketing emails by reading Michel Fiffe's latest episode of The Fiffe Files. This time around, Michel is here to make the case for Mike Sekowsky...along with a whole mess of Justice League of America comics. 

And look at that amazing Mike Sekowsky art! Inked by Bernard Sachs this time around. Like Dillin, I've always thought Sekowsky had an old school illustrator vibe to him, but that he was more concerned with speed and efficiency than technical virtuosity... less concerned with showing off and more about meeting the deadline. Either way, I was all in, expecting a slog of pseudo science over-explained by a pack of humorless boy scouts. That's not what I got at all. I cracked open this new comic Christmas afternoon. A few hours later, the hooks were in. I wanted more.

Our review of the day comes to us from Matt Seneca, and it's a mixed take on Little Bird, one of the more visually compelling books to come out of the Image genre factory in a while. 

Still, to my eye at least, Quitely is the most apparent influence on the way Bertram draws. This isn't surprising; as one of a very few modern cartoonists whose work on corporate properties hasn't led to a bibliography comprised mainly of bad comics, Quitely is cruising toward elder statesman status these days with an ever widening circle of published acolytes. Bertram flexes a strong individual style while picking up on two important, underappreciated aspects of Quitely's: his markmaking and his passion for grotesquerie. Bertram's forms are his own, but they're shaped with profusions of crabbed, gossamer-thin lines that rarely extend for more than a centimeter before breaking off a micron from another, nearly identical stroke. Quitely fans will recognize this impressionistic, almost sculptural approach on sight, but Bertram brings a more frenetic, compulsive hand to his pages, locating a strong gristle of connective tissue between Quitely and Dave Cooper. And like Quitely, just about every one of Bertram's characters are imbued with Extreme physicality: a Strong guy looks like an NFL lineman with hypertrophy, a Regal dude's robe-swathed legs extend well over twice the length of his torso, a Small girl approaches a lithe brand of dwarfism. This is influence properly wielded, not copycat work but an identification and exploration of shared strong points.

Over at Comicosity, Mark Peters took a reverent look at Charles Glaubitz's Starseeds for his Kirbyology column. 

I had never read such a confident, surreal, mythological, entrancing comic. As Tom Scioli has said of New Gods #7 (“The Pact”), you could build a religion around this comic.

Over at Bleeding Cool, there's a fascinating look into the financial tentacles of IDW, a company that has spent the better part of the last twelve months involved in so many different types of drama, legal maneuvers and fiscal hopscotch that I wouldn't even know how to summarize it. 

The numbers show that IDW’s sales revenue percentage from direct market sales grew significantly more than traditional retail. Digital comics sales revenue percentage actually decreased from 2018 to 2019. We’ve prepared pie charts to illustrate the breakdowns.

Still don't even understand what this is, and i've read the NYT on it, and then I read the WWAC making fun of the NYT on it. Why is Garth Ennis so great at making war comics and Punisher stories and yet still so bad at picking business partners?

 

Graphs

Today on the site, Robert Kirby reviews Zidrou and Aimée de Jongh's Blossoms in Autumn.

Blossoms in Autumn tells the story of a man and a woman who become romantically involved late in life. Though at first they seem to be polar opposites, the focus isn’t on their differences, as it would be in a typical romantic comedy, but on their shared sense of making the last chapter of their lives count—of making up for lost time. While there are a couple of weakly imagined story points, it’s a sweet, skillfully rendered piece.

Zidrou takes his time to properly introduce us to his protagonists. His heroine is Mediterranea Solenza, a former model now in her early sixties who runs the cheese shop that has been in her family for a few generations. Having just lost her mother to cancer, Mediterranea is understandably thinking a lot about her own mortality and mourning the loss of her youth. When her brother tells her that she is now “the oldest Solenza!” she likens his words to being bitten by a viper.

We then meet Ulysses, a widowed blue-collar guy who is forced into early retirement at age 59, when the moving company he works for downsizes during an economic downturn. Ulysses is quite unhappy to lose his job and feels at loose ends. Though he has a good relationship with his adult son, a doctor, he’s lonely. He doesn’t appear at first to have much of an inner life and has no artistic outlet–in fact, early on he informs us that he hates reading. He joylessly ticks off the non-events of his day like grocery shopping, feeling at a loss for anything exciting that the future might hold. He does, however, make regular visits to a prostitute who offers him sexual release, but no lasting inner satisfaction.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

Tom Kaczynski followed up his most recent column with a post on his own blog:

I did a lot of writing around this episode, much of which didn’t make the final cut. Here’s a bit that got left on the cutting room floor. One thing I found myself struggling with is the large body of Batman literature. Much of this literature is very similar to itself, with small differences. The more I thought about it, the more it resembled a fractal structure. And when zooming out on this fractal, Batman and superheroes in general acquire a fractal self-similarity. But I get ahead of myself.

BA(TM)AN
How do you write about Batman? How do you write about a property like Batman? Specifically, how do you write about a single episode of one of the longest running comics properties in the world? How do you write about something like Batman: Son Of the Demon ?

After 80 years of continuous publication — after countless issues, series, specials, graphic novels, novelizations, TV & film adaptions — what is Batman? Which Batman do you write about? Batman the character or Ba(TM)an the franchise? When you write about BSOTD, which Batman do you compare him to? Is it possible to evaluate BSOTD on its own merits? How can you evaluate Batman’s behavior and story arc in this book? If you don’t know the history between Ra’s al Ghul & Batman will this make any sense? If you know it only in-part, is that enough?

As A Dog

Today at The Comics Journal, we're pleased to welcome Katie Skelly back for another installment of Creators Talking To Creators. (We're still workshopping the title of these things, stop making that face.) This time, Skelly is speaking with Guy Colwell, whose book Doll is returning to print via Fantagraphics--where it will include a print edition of this very conversation!

Do you consider Doll an erotic work? Or do you view the sex scenes more as functional for driving the plot? 

Can I say the answer is both? I suppose I was inspired by Larry Welz’s Cherry books which were selling very well through Rip Off Press when I was working as art director there. So I wanted to do an erotic book and make some money, but something like the raw but trivialized sex in Cherry would not have been my way of approaching a story that had to rely on a lot of sex. Not very interesting and there were plenty of other pure stroke books out there already. I wanted something a little more serious that looked at some of the dark side and sadness and tragedy of sexuality, not just the bumping and pumping and grunting. So, yes, the sex is a driver of the storylines and, yes, it is still an erotic book meant to excite the reader.

Drop the Keys

Today on the site, Mark Newgarden returns with an excellent interview with Zippy the Pinhead cartoonist Bill Griffith, largely revolving around his new book, Nobody's Fool, a biography of one of his major inspirations for Zippy, Schlitzie.

Mark Newgarden: Why Schlitzie (and not, say, Zip)?

Bill Griffith: Schlitzie's appearance in Freaks [1932], which I first saw in 1963, was the inspiration (years later) for Zippy. Barnum's pinhead, "Zip the What-is-it," only supplied me with Zippy's name. It's been pretty well settled that Zip was a fake. His sister said he could converse and behave like anyone else---so he was an actor. Schlitzie, on the other hand, was the real thing.

Couldn't a Zip biography (the life of a faux pinhead poseur) have piqued your interest in the way that the life of Schlitzie did?

Zip was an actor, though many many other sideshow acts were also less than truthful. While I find that interesting, it pales before the authenticity of Schlitzie. Schlitzie was an innocent in a fraudulent world. He was himself, incapable of acting. Zip was a fraud in a fraudulent world. I chose the innocent.

Nobody’s Fool is explicitly grounded in solidly researched historical material, yet there are many intimate details (which feel even more “real”) that must at least in part be invented, imagined, or divined. As a cartoonist, how do you approach biography?

I adopted the "fly on the wall" method in creating many scenes in the book. I always made sure I had the best evidence before doing this, but I took artistic license to flesh out interactions and events. After months of source reading and several key interviews I did with two people who knew Schlitzie in his later years, I felt I was well grounded enough to make educated guesses about how events would play out. Cartoonist's intuition!

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—At the London Review of Books, Namara Smith reviews Nick Drnaso's Sabrina.

Drnaso’s second book, Sabrina, the first graphic novel to be nominated for the Man Booker Prize, is a longer, more elaborate study of the desire for initiation and the fear of exposure. The title comes from the name of the young woman who disappears in its opening pages. ‘It’s one of those horror stories you hear about,’ another character explains as the story begins to circulate. ‘She just never came home.’ Surveillance footage from the night Sabrina vanished shows her a block away from her apartment in Chicago, then nothing. A month later, her bus pass is mailed to her parents. Soon copies of a videotape showing a woman who matches her description being killed by a man in a black ski mask are sent to news stations across the country. On the package is an Illinois return address. The landlord tells the police that his tenant, a 23-year-old called Timmy Yancey, rarely left the building and had few visitors besides his mother. In the bathroom, they find a set of neatly folded black clothes and a black ski mask. Lying in the bathtub, which is filled with water the colour of blood, is the body of a young man, his mouth still curved upward in a faint smile.

—Marilyn Berlin Snell enthuses over the cartoons of Charles Addams.

What’s typically unseen in his cartoons is the source of both the horror and humor. We often (but not always!) have deniability when we laugh. When I asked individual family members to name a favorite Addams cartoon, there was eerie consensus across the half century since last we’d perused the artist’s collected works together. Two stood out: A beach scene with the shadow of a giant bird on the sand carrying something big, and a woman in a bathing suit chasing the shadow, yelling up, “George! George! Drop the keys!”

New Yorker cartoonist Harry Bliss speaks briefly about his collaborations with Steve Martin.

Plane Cave

Today at The Comics Journal, we're still talking about the return of Mat Brinkman. This time around, it's by hosting a conversation between Jason Levian and Michele Nitri, the two publishers behind the recently announced distribution collaboration between their respective publishing houses, Floating World and Hollow Press.

Can you remember the first time you saw a Mat Brinkman comic?  What was that like? It took a couple years for a Paper Rodeo to make it across the country from the east coast to Portland, OR. It changed my life. How did you find his work in Europe?

The first Brinkman comic I saw was Multiforce. I think about 8-9 years ago. I was at home with one of my best friends Ratigher. He showed me the Picturebox edition, telling me that Brinkman was the Jesus of recent underground comics. I’ll always be thankful to Ratigher for that. I publish him too and he is really famous in Italy right now. He is the art director of one of the greatest publishing house here in Italy, Coconino Press. He has won several prestigious awards in Italy and sooner or later will be famous worldwide too. Great friend and great artist!

Also, Brinkman comics have a special way of spreading around the world. We all know that many artists love him. Everyone in the underground worlds love or respect him. So at that time in Italy many underground artists knew him. Readers didn't know him but artists did of course, and this is the indisputable proof of the worth of his art. Coming back to Brinkman, I was really curious, ordered my copy from Picturebox, read it and thought “what the fuck I have read!". That reading was something that really revolutionized my life and influenced my tastes in what kind of art I wanted to find.

Our review of the day comes to you from Edwin Turner. He's here talking about Kingdom, the latest from Jon McNaught.

Not much happens in Jon McNaught's latest graphic novel Kingdom. A mother takes her son and daughter to Kingdom Fields Holiday Park, a vacation lodge on the British coast. There, they watch television, go to a run-down museum, play on the beach, walk the hills, and visit an old aunt. Then they go home. There is no climactic event, no terrible trial to endure. There is no crisis, no trauma. And yet it's clear that the holiday in Kingdom Fields will remain forever with the children, embedded into their consciousness as a series of strange aesthetic impressions. Not much happens in Kingdom, but what does happen feels vital and real.

What Is That?

Today on the site, we have a report on the Italian Hollow Press's effort, in conjunction with Floating World in the U.S., to republish classic titles from Mat Brinkman.

Collectors and enthusiasts in North America interested in books like this can look forward to more from Hollow Press via Floating World. The agreement between Leivian and Nitri was contingent on distributing not just Brinkman's work, but the entire Hollow Press back catalogue. For now Leivian and Nitri plan on getting the books shipped en masse to the United States every three weeks or so. Within a couple months, Leivian will have the full catalogue for sale on the Floating World site, as well as available for wholesale distribution.

"I’m glad someone brought it back in print," Nadel said, pointing out that he often gets asked when the books would be back in print and that Brinkman has had "plenty of offers" to reprint them over the years. Brinkman avoids doing press and has no online presence, devoting his time and efforts to music and other pursuits. Nonetheless, Nadel said, his work still stands out.

"There’s no Adventure Time without Mat Brinkman and Paper Rodeo, for example," he said. "And without Adventure Time, near as I can tell, 75% of what’s on display at your local comic book 'festival' does not exist."

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—The National Cartoonists Society has announced its nominees for Outstanding Cartoonist of the Year.

—The Connecticut Post has a history of the Museum of Comic Art.

In the mid-1970s, longtime Greenwich resident Mort Walker — creator of comic strips “Beetle Bailey” and “Hi and Lois” — established the first home dedicated to the collection, preservation and exhibition of cartoon art.

“I remember when we first opened, someone came by asking what we were doing,” says Brian Walker, son of Mort Walker, who died last year at 94.

“I told him it was a cartoon museum and he said, ‘Who’d want to see that?’ Back then people just didn’t get it.”

Times have changed, says Walker who can almost guarantee whenever he does a cartoon exhibit, it’s a hit.

But it took several decades for this realization.

—At the New York Times, Hillary Chute reviews medicine-related comics from Ian Williams, Emmma, and Lucy Knisley.

Knisley’s personal journey can be compelling and quite funny — for instance, in depicting her intense struggle with morning sickness, she draws herself sweating and shaded a solid mint green. But the book, with its jaunty colors and friendly black line art, works best as an extended public service announcement. Knisley deploys the diagrammatic features of comics to break down medical and cultural contexts around miscarriage, infertility and pregnancy, along with their symptoms, and she illustrates myths as well as facts, letting them visually stack up against one another.

—RIP. Larry Cohen.

Scott Walker.

Go Go Gadget Feelings

Today at the Comics Journal, we're sharing R.C. Harvey's obituary of cartoonist Tom K. Ryan, who passed away earlier this month. It's an extensive, well researched look at a very long career.

The humor in the strips of this new tradition— PeanutsB.C.The Wizard of IdTumbleweedsAnimal Crackers, to name a few— is more sophisticated because it depends on our recognizing something that is only implicit in the strip. We laugh at B.C. because we are shown childlike men, men just beginning to be men, trying out civilization, and we see what they do not: that, like a suit that's too large, civilization doesn't quite fit.

We laugh at Tumbleweeds much of the time because we recognize that the real Old West was quite different from the West that tiny Tumbleweeds tries to reenact whenever moved to action. If we didn't know that trains run on round wheels along smooth rails, Thor's choo-choo in B.C. wouldn't appear funny to us at all. If we didn't know that most cowboys' horses don't jump wide canyons in a single bound, Tumbleweeds' dashed hopes would be tragic instead of comic. But we do know these things, and upon that knowledge the humor of these strips is built.

Today's review comes to us from Leonard Pierce, who is taking a look at Proxima Centauri, by Farel Dalrymple. He's into it.

It’s not all that necessary, or even useful, to dwell on Proxima Centauri’s plot; just knowing the bare-bones elements will suffice. Not that there aren’t many unexpected pleasures to be had in the story; Dalrymple lays out seemingly random bits and pieces of narrative that often come together in unexpected ways, forging the kind of connections that make you gasp in the way that only a really good high can. (I won’t speculate as to the creator’s habits, but this is a book that’s psychedelic in the best and truest way; its incredible imaginative elements burble up in unpredictable ways and then link together in a manner that seems almost inevitable.) It’s just that the real golden ticket here is the way he takes so many different genre elements and threads them together with his astonishing art as the common factor.

Take the full hour for the video below.

In Time for the Show

Today on the site, Frank M. Young talks to comics scholar and prolific biographer Bill Schelly about his latest book subject, the publisher James Warren.

He was a very social guy. He wanted to be around people; he had lots of friends whom he’d invite to his house out at the beach; he didn’t isolate himself. He did that later, in the 1980s, when the magazines were struggling, and he was dealing with some demons of his own. He could have done a great deal to prevent the collapse of his company. Bill Dubay said, later, that if Warren had made the effort, he could have saved the magazines.

But times were changing. The newsstand distribution system was falling apart, and that was what Jim knew. He had been involved with Phil Seuling from the ground floor of the direct market, but he still needed newsstand distribution for his magazines. He saw that was going away. His survival would depend on whether the direct market would have supported his magazines or not. There are things he might have done to address these challenges, but he chose not to, and the book explains why.

Once you start looking into a person’s life, you begin to realize why things happened the way they did. For example, with Harvey Kurtzman, people say, “If he’d just stuck with Mad magazine, he could have become a millionaire.” He could have become Al Feldstein, who stuck with the magazine for many years and became independently wealthy. But Harvey Kurtzman could never have done what Al Feldstein did. Kurtzman would have never wanted the magazine to remain the same year after year, decade after decade. He would have always been trying to change it, and evolve it, and would have probably self-destructed at some point.

We certainly wish our heroes, like Kurtzman, didn’t have to face such great adversity in later years. In Warren’s case, he came out of it and today has a good life. He dealt with depression and some other physical issues, but he’s still with us. His mother lived to 104, so Jim, who turns 90 next year, may well be with us for a long time, and I hope he is.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Interviews & Profiles.
Tobias Carroll talks to Mark Alan Stamaty.

My parents were both gag cartoonists, and so I grew up reading single panel gag cartoons. They had a whole bunch of collections of them and then I’d see the magazines of that day they had. So there was that and there was reading comics – Little Lulu, Dennis the Menace, whatever. And then when I was 14 the thing that really expanded my world was seeing Sick, Sick, Sick by Jules Feiffer. Which was a revelation to me, because I had, like I said, my parents did single panel gag cartoons, but that wasn’t really what I wanted to do. I realized, especially seeing Jules’s work, that I wanted to do narratives, and he really exploded the possibilities of that.

When I started doing MacDoodle St., I had been doing children’s books mostly at that point and I wanted to really play with the form as loosely as I could. I wanted to innovate, I wanted to hopefully bring something to it that I hadn’t seen, that I didn’t know. So it was really like, this is a great form, what else can it be?

Rosemarie Anner talks to Flash Gordon artist Bob Fujitani.

Fujitani worked alongside such legendary giants as Will Eisner and Nick Cardy. It was a grind, he admits, even later when he did most of his work at home. It sometimes took three people to complete an illustrative comic strip: writer, artist, letterer. Fujitani would get the text from the writer and do the artwork to accompany the words. Then he and his wife, Ruth, also a painter, would drive “over the Tappan Zee Bridge and down 9W to letterer Ben Oda’s house.” Oda would open the door in a cloud of cigarette smoke, Fujitani remembers, laughing heartily at the memory. It was Oda’s job to fit in texts in the “speech balloons,” working in the spaces left in the drawings done by Fujitani.

—News. The New York Times ingenuously writes about the launch of a new comics publisher devoted to developing potential film and media properties.

It’s an approach reminiscent of old Hollywood. “The model here really is the old United Artists model, where people who are actually doing the creative have ownership, control and decision-making power over the work that they’re doing,” said Bill Jemas, a former vice president of Marvel who is the chief executive and publisher of AWA. Joining him at the helm are Axel Alonso, a former editor in chief at Marvel, as chief creative officer and Jonathan F. Miller as chairman. Miller helped broker a deal in 2017 between the comic book writer Mark Millar and Netflix, which bought his library of characters for development on the streaming service. Jemas and Alonso say the first of AWA’s titles will arrive some time this fall.

—Misc. The cartoonist (and former TCJ columnist) Julia Gfrörer has launched a Patreon.

Crew (Fake)

Today at The Comics Journal, we're pleased to share our latest in a long-running but never officially titled series where one comics creator gets into the heart of this thing with a fellow comics creator. Today, it's living legend Jaime Hernandez alongside the critically acclaimed and diabolically talented Katie Skelly. I hope people read the shit out of this one. I've gone through six (!) different things to copy and paste as the teaser. It shouldn't be surprising that our greatest living cartoonist makes for such a tremendous interview subject, I suppose.

In the new collection, the panels where Maggie is lying on the bed with Ray and you have that wonderful foreshortening of her leg, you can see exactly where her weight is shifted to, and how she’s existing in space -- in one hundred thousand years, I could never get something down where people would be able to parse that line. And that’s a very easy visual vocabulary for you at this point. Do you ever feel awestruck by that? Do you ever search your work for places you could improve?

Well, say the panel you’re talking about -- I probably went like, that’s the ticket. This is exactly what I wanted to portray here. It’s not always, but there’s certain images where I just know that’s the one. I didn’t need any words for it. When I was 16 I was drawing and then I sat back and looked at it, I realized I’d gotten to the point where I can draw anything I want. And of course there were a few more years where I had more to learn, and how to polish it up and get things right, and I’m still doing that. But I guess that’s another reason I wouldn’t trade this for something else is because I can get the exact moment -- not always -- but I can get that exact moment of exactly what I’m thinking. It’s kind of like -- this could go in a different direction, but what the fuck -- it’s kind of like people with fetishes. People have to go to stores to buy that, people have to look at DVDs, they have to seek that out. I get to draw exactly what I’m thinking.

Our review of the day comes to us from Keith Silva, fresh of vacation and full of vinegar. He's here with a look at Neon Future #1, which is connected to an incredibly successful series of albums released by Steve Aoki. 

Neon Future uses ambition and cloying vanity to paper over a vapid, derivative and insipid story. What merits it possesses function as a quasi-Turing test of its reader’s credibility, viz. heart-on-sleeve devotion to 1990s comics and the imitative sci-fi that slouched out from placental expulsion post-Matrix.

Those are its redeeming qualities. It gets worse.

I'm not the kind of maniac who would say "I'm glad Steve Ditko died before he could see this", i'm the kind of maniac who wished I had died before I saw it. What an atrocious cover design! (Is this the random blog entry where I confess that I've read the first nine issue of Doomsday Clock and found them to be a complete delight, and would argue it's the best comic that Geoff Johns has written since he did those psychotic Doug Mahnke comics where a leather covered Green Lantern villain spooned with the dead bodies of his parents? Looks like it! Like that comic--and the taste-free gonzo murder festival that followed, which included Donna Troy battling a zombiefied version of her infant son and a three issue grindhouse retelling of Assault on Precinct 13 set inside a Gotham City police station--Doomsday Clock is packed so firmly with wacked out numetal choices that Scott Snyder is probably stomping around the DC offices in his pajama pants right now trying to remind everybody that he used to be cool too. It's been so long since I've seen Johns go this fucking hard that I forgot how fun the guy used to be when he had something to say--and while "Fuck Alan Moore" isn't a very catchy tune, I have to admit, he sure is singing it with gusto.)

Over at Newsarama, Chris Arrant's tireless commitment to keeping up with the various job postings related to comics publishing has paid off with an article about DC making the best decision they've made since giving the okay to publishing Doomsday Clock, which is that they're casting a net for a new hire in such a way that they might actually end up finding somebody from outside of the comics world. Here's some simple math that's eluded every major comics periodical publisher for the last however many decades: if the pool of people who are available for a given job have a track record of being really shitty at that given job, then don't hire from that pool of people. People who have a history of failure, bad ideas, and/or sucking in general will invariably continue to fail, think of dumb shit, and suck. At some point, it's not recycling anymore: it's just garbage.

Over at Comicosity, there's an article that I don't even know how to process. If you've got years of experience knowing that the way you talk about comics on dates tends to derail the date, why would you assume that the solution is to talk even more about comics? Why not try like--A) listening or B) talking about different subjects or C) at the bare minimum, not assume that the reason that monomaniacal monologuing alienates people is because of some ethereal stigma against comics that can be repaired by even more detailed monomaniacal monologuing? There's entire swaths--swaths in this case meaning millions--of people who love jabbering about baseball statistics but are at least able to put a cork in it during the dating process so that the person on the other end of the table gets a chance to talk too--why does it never seem to occur to people who like talking about Tom King comics that shutting the fuck up can be a viable, sexier alternative to talking about Tom King comics? 

Abhay found this David Letterman clip where he talks about Harvey Pekar. I think Harvey would have been proud to know that the prospect of Letterman talking to Howard Stern about Harvey Pekar is what is being used by Sirius Xm as the teaser to get people to sign up for Sirius Xm.

 

Maelstrom

Today on the site, Rob Clough reviews Liz Suburbia's Thee Collected Cyanide Milkshake.

Liz Suburbia's anthology comic Cyanide Milkshake is a mix of '80s alternative comics variety and '90s DIY punk ethos. She effortlessly blends romance, fantasy, rock, feminism, punk, autobio, dogs, and superhero gags into a surprisingly coherent package, held together by a singular visual aesthetic. The simplicity of her tools (Sharpies) is belied by her relentless work ethic. Indeed, Suburbia eschews the sort of ratty line that a lot of punk-inspired artists use in favor of the clarity that can be traced back to Archie artists like Dan DeCarlo and Bob Bolling. It's not surprising to see a blurb from Jaime Hernandez for this collection of comics, given that he drew from many of the same sources. It's a different kind of punk, drawing from the same frustrations with society but expressing them in a fluid, elegant, and witty manner.

Thee Collected Cyanide Milkshake is in turns silly and personal, slapstick and revealing, a hoot and a howl. Published by riot grrrl zine legend Janelle Hessig's Gimme Action, I can't think of a better match between artist and publisher. While working on what eventually became Sacred Heart, a sweeping punk genre book published by Fantagraphics, Suburbia used Cyanide Milkshake as her repository for every other idea. It was her personal laboratory to write autobio, pen an epic zombie romance story, write about her beloved dogs and their increasingly weird adventures, and make fun of Scott Summers from the X-Men. In every issue, Suburbia writes editorials that rail against defeatism, complacency, or the idea that the punk aesthetic and lifestyle is a mark of immaturity--something one grows out of when you get a mortgage.


Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—News. Tom K. Ryan, creator of Tumbleweeds, has died. We will have an obituary on the site soon.

—Misc. Longtime fan Russ Maheras has published a very thorough account of his various encounters with Steve Ditko.

Steve was a fairly-thin, gray-haired older man. His thinning hair was combed back, and he wore narrow-frame glasses. He was wearing a short-sleeved soft-plaid shirt (with pocket) that buttoned up in front, a white t-shirt, and slacks. He stood nearly erect and appeared in excellent health. He was alert, moved deliberately, and had no signs of any age-related issues. His hearing was fine, and his mind was very quick and very sharp.

He is a friendly, articulate and affable man, who, while he may have strong opinions (as do I), was easy to talk with. He listened carefully to what I said, and if he agreed, he nodded or affirmed his agreement. If he disagreed, he would say so and explain why.


—Interviews & Podcasts.
The most recent guest on RiYL is Nick Thorburn, and the most recent guest on Chapo Trap House is Eli Valley.

Cloak Psychology

Today at The Comics Journal, Alex Dueben is opening the week talking Gasoline Alley with the man who has been its faithful captain for decades: Jim Scancarelli. As the strip recently reached its 100th anniversary, Alex asked "the question".

I have to ask, are Walt and Skeezix ever going to die?

I’ve been asked that. In the back of my head, I have a scenario that would work. I have told Bob Harvey, but I swore him to secrecy. I don’t know. Uncle Walt is too good a character. You can kill off Phyllis and nobody is going to miss her much, but you don’t kill your main character. I’m having too good a time with him. Skeezix? I think he should stay around. All of Uncle Walt’s cronies that he used to work on cars with have all passed away. That was the realistic part of what I was doing. Uncle Walt has good genes. You just don’t kill off your main character because you don’t have a strip anymore. You have other players, but people seem to like Walt and Skeezix.

Our review of the day comes from R.C. Harvey, and its a look at The Unknown Anti-War Comics, a recent anthology put together by Craig Yoe.

Slightly more than three dozen Charlton anti-war comics stories from mid-1950s and 1960s are collected here, beginning with four tales from Never Again Nos. 1 and 8, the first anti-war comic (which appeared in only two non=chronologically numbered issues). The work of 15 artists includes eight stories by Ditko, but Bill Molno drew the most, twelve, and Ross Andru, Charles Nicholas, and Rocco “Rocke” Mastroserio are also represented almost as often as Ditko.

Almost Done

Today on the site, Tom Kaczynski returns with his Event Horizon column, this time focusing on a Batman comic he finds particularly revealing.

Batman: Son of the Demon (BSOTD) falls squarely into the "traditional" camp. Batman was one of the few characters that was not hugely affected by the Crisis of Infinite Earths (Apr 1985-Mar 1986, more on that next column) continuity reboot. The monthly Batman titles were not numerically reset to #1, unlike, say, Superman. Batman’s origin was tweaked a bit in Batman: Year One, but that come out after BSOTD and had no effect on its continuity. The key revisionist Batman, The Dark Knight Returns, came out just a few months before BSOTD. The other key Batman title from that era, The Killing Joke, would not come out until 1988; post-Event.

BSOTD occupies an awkward position in the Batman canon… and in the Event. On one hand, M.W. Barr tries to disrupt the Batman mythos by introducing new elements into the canon, and takes new liberties with violence and brutality. On other, in execution, it’s a nostalgic callback to the then already classic Denny O’Neil & Neil Adams era of Batman. (That run itself was a callback to the original pre-camp, pre-TV-show Batman). The artist Jerry Bingham may have put it best. Bingham was “half-way through working on Batman, Son of the Demon, when Frank Miller’s first Dark Knight hit the comic shops. My brain nearly exploded. I felt like Roger Corman watching a Spielberg movie, and I had to force myself to pick up the pencil again.” This is an interesting admission. All around him, creators like Miller, Sienkiewicz, Mazzucchelli, and others were competing with each other to innovate comics storytelling. Meanwhile, Bingham felt like a dinosaur drawing in the classic Batman style.

Brian Nicholson is here, too, with a review of Mike Taylor's In Christ There Is No East or West.

Mike Taylor’s book In Christ There Is No East or West begins with its lead character having what is possibly a panic attack, before the rest of the narrative unfolds in an oneiric state, where he wanders a landscape that might be best understood as a Bardo, a space between death and rebirth, though it’s never explicitly identified as such. It is from the very beginning as gripping as the cataclysm it describes, impactful as a car crash, a jolt you will remember.

Taylor’s artwork is visceral and impactful, occupying space on the Raymond Pettibon/Gary Panter continuum. It is pretty easy to see the debt to Panter on any page of this comic, but Taylor also has a substantial body of single-image “fine art” that incorporates the use of text in a Pettibon-like way. This is the lineage of the good kind of “punk art,” and Taylor is definitely the good kind of punk, committed to the exploration of diverse bodies of knowledge without entering into or replicating hierarchical systems. I recently learned, from a Twitter thread Nate Powell posted about his formative influences, that a decade before I encountered Taylor’s work he was collaborating with the now deceased zine-maker and zine-library-maintainer Travis Fristoe, to whom this book is dedicated, and had work published in the zine HeartattaCk. (The H and C are both capitalized to signal coverage of hardcore.)

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—News. This year's National Book Critics Circle award winners have been announced, and Nora Krug's Belonging won in the autobiography category.

—Interviews & Profiles. Ty Burr at the Boston Globe talks to Bill Griffith.

Q. Was making “Nobody’s Fool” a way of paying back the success you’ve had with Zippy the Pinhead?

A. Well, yeah. I always periodically feel I owe my public an explanation for Zippy. Like, what’s this all about? I even have another book in mind that I’ll probably never do, it’s just a joke book to me, called “The Key to Zippy.” Like “The Key to ‘Finnegans Wake.’” And I would absolutely, dead seriously, completely explain Zippy in infinite detail. I’ve done it satirically a number of times in the “Zippy” strip. [But] this book has some quality of that, of me saying “Here’s the inspiration for Zippy.”

Paul Morton at The Millions interviews James Sturm.

James Sturm: With historical fiction there is more of an element of excavation to the undertaking. Switching gears to contemporary fiction, I enjoyed being more attentive to the current moment and my immediate environment, especially because the story was set in a place similar to where I live. There were times while writing Off Season that it felt like I was working on a documentary.

TM: What do you mean by documentary? Do you see similarities between the methods you employ in Off Season and those employed by non-fiction comics creators?

JS: After working on the book a year, my characters felt real to me. With characters set in another era you have a sense of the history they are moving through. When I decided to set this book during the election season, I didn’t know what was going to happen, I had to let things unfold and record my character’s response.

Roz Chast appeared at The Strand:

—Misc. At Hyperallergic, Natasha Seaman writes about a Botticelli exhibit at Boston's Isabella Stewart Gardner museum that incorporates interpretive comics by Karl Stevens.

Beyond harnessing the illustrative advantages of images, as demonstrated by Stevens’s work, the show is also making the point that Botticelli’s paintings are a lot like cartoons. His forms are wired into taut outlines, his characters’ gestures are theatrical and expository, his palette prefigures mid-century Disney, and his trick of containing different episodes of a story into architecture is just like the multiple panels of a strip. However, Stevens’s work, here entirely in black and white, and like all his pen-and-ink drawings, obsessively cross-hatched, offers instructive contrast rather than mere parallel to the Renaissance master’s paintings.

He’s Dead Tired

Today at Comics Journal, it's time for one of the sharpest conversations in the conversation drawer: Matthew Thurber and Austin English. We've had this one in the hopper for a minute, and we're pleased to see it make its way into the world. Here's a taste:

You don’t go to Columbia grad school and talk about the money the other students make. It’s just not going to enter the critique, or how much money you were able to spend on it.

I imagine now if a minimalist artist come up, it’s probably like, “And these guys were able to do this because they had a little bit of money.”

Donald Judd was canny with real estate. I don’t know if he grew up with money.

A lot of those minimalists were able to sustain their practice because they had these studios in SoHo, when real estate was nothing. That work remains relevant and I feel that the economic stability those artists had through making those real estate decisions is part of that, though unacknowledged.

There’s twenty other people waiting in the wings, who didn’t have the money, who you don’t really hear about. That’s an interesting issue. You had all kinds of people doing all kinds of things, and the Fluxus guy, George Maciunas, was starting this utopian buying program, of buying up buildings. So, the Fluxus guy became like a slumlord to all these different artists. The real-estate-preserving history.

I hope that people are taking more about race, economics, what is valid expression. Trying to get back to making a sensible statement about this—in terms of school, you talk about, in a way, the free of context art the students are making. You don’t talk about realities. And that’s reflected a lot in Art Comic, where you have students of various economic backgrounds all improperly equipped by their teachers to deal with the weird reality of that the capitalist system. The art world is really just a metaphor for capitalism in the book. They come out of art school, and they are just trying to be idealists, and, so the teachers are victims of this system as well, and they’re oppressing the students.

Our review of the day comes to us from a guy familiar with both academia and those who never climbed the ivory tower: Paul Buhle, who is here with his take on Bill Schelly's James Warren book.

Perhaps, for most TCJ readers, the most outstanding contribution of James Warren, Empire of Monsters is the careful enumeration of the top-flight comic artists who migrated from EC comics or high-placed perches in the superhero mainstream, into the horror mags as well as Help. Al Williamson, Jack Davis, Frank Franzetta, Wally Wood, John Severin, Steve Ditko, Joe Orlando, Reed Crandall… The list goes on and on. It was a tough world for freelancers and Warren had a paycheck for them, if a small one. Forty dollars seems to have been a normal page rate for genius work; then again, rents were cheaper back then.

dd

Cherish Our History

Tucker's on semi-vacation in Florida right now, but before he left, he arranged for today's posts, including an interview with the longtime comics critic and scholar Marc Singer, about his new book, Breaking the Frames: Populism and Prestige in Comics Studies.

You argue that critics are often too quick to read in a critical stance or a critical perspective in the works they write about. So, for example, to use an example you don't directly address, people argue that V in Alan Moore and David Lloyd's s V for Vendetta is a repudiation of terrorist violence, rather than a glorification of it. Why do people want comics to have a critical perspective? And why are you certain in some cases that they don't, when so many other readers see that in them?

To the first part of the question about why people, I think that it becomes a passport to intellectual credibility for the comics themselves.

There's a common formula in criticism, not just in comics criticism by any means, where if you can show that the work itself is participating in a kind of cultural critique, then you've justified its place in the academy, you've justified its place in the academic journals. And you've justified your own work, because essentially at that point all you need to do is draft along behind it, and say, "Well, this work is criticizing terrorist violence, or this work is criticizing any other ideology we don't care for, and I can just sort of expose the critique and ride along behind it, and I've done some critical work as well."

I don't think that stance is always wrong. I think there are lots of comics that do perform that kind of critical work, and it's worth exploring it when they do.

Matt Seneca is here, too, with a review of Ruppert & Mulot's erotic comic, The Perineum Technique.

French cartooning team Ruppert & Mulot (whose mamas named them Florent and Jerome) are tough to put a label on. Setting aside the fact that "their creative partnership has grown so organically as to obscure the individual contribution of the work of either hand," per this book's press packet, their published efforts range as far and wide as any more familiar name that I can think of. Their first two offerings to the US market, an enigmatic short in Kramers Ergot and the bizarre metafiction Barrel of Monkeys, positioned them as hardcore avant-gardists, makers of work so full of sharp angles and jagged edges it could cut itself - literally, Barrel of Monkeys invites readers to employ the blade in rendering a magic lantern-type device from its pages at one point. I was genuinely shocked at encountering Le Grande Odalisque, the duo's frothy action-girl series with Bastien Vives, which shows that Ruppert & Mulot have another gear - or a whole different set of them. Odalisque's impactfully staged melodrama plays as well to the multiplex as Barrel of Monkeys does to the gallery space.  

The Perineum Technique, which is the first Ruppert & Mulot work you're at all likely to encounter in a regular comic store, squares the circle. This is a very heady comic that's fun and easy to read; unusual to say the least. On the surface it's smooth and sleek, about as far from "experimental comics" as can be, but much swims in its depths. One is compelled to turn its pages over again and again, scrutinizing the smooth shell in search of a chink or flaw that might explain why this fun, easy book also feels so strange.  

The Perineum Technique is unabashedly a romance comic, a new entry in a genre that's spent the past half decade poised for a big comeback that hasn't materialized. Romance is a genre comics has always done well, and one where new ground is currently offering itself up begging to be explored. Maybe it's symptomatic of the fact that comic books are mostly made by unlaid losers that the 2010s have delivered so many great comics about Being Online but so few about the way it's impacted modern romance? Regardless, Ruppert & Mulot are on the case with this baldly put tale of a love affair that starts on the apps and spills out messily into rl. 

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—News. Slate and CCS have announced the nominees for their annual Cartoonist Studio Prize.

—Interviews & Profiles. Henry Chamberlain talks to Bill Griffith.

In 1976, Zippy began to appear in about 50 alternative weekly newspapers–syndicated only by me. From ’76 to ’85, Zippy was a weekly strip that I syndicated alone. In 1985, the San Francisco Examiner, a daily Hearst paper, was given over to a new generation. Will Hearst III called me into his office and offered that I do a strip for the paper. I thought he meant weekly. No, he wanted daily. That was a huge shock. I remember telling him that I’d have to think about it. I came back with a proposal for six months of backlog, running my weekly archives daily to help give me time to get into the flow of doing new material. He agreed so there I was in 1985.

Then, in 1986, one of the vice presidents at King Features came down to visit me in San Francisco and proposed that King Features take on Zippy as a daily comic strip. Once again, I was very surprised. This was not something I’d sought. Right away, I didn’t think the material was going to work around the country in places like Kansas City. King Features said to let them worry about that. I thought I’d try to kill the deal by asking for a lot more money than I’d been getting from the Examiner and King Features agreed instantly. They agreed to not censor me too. Suddenly, I was in New York signing a contract and trying to show salesmen how to sell Zippy. A couple of them got it and the rest looked like they wanted to be somewhere else.

At Popula, Shuja Haider interviews Eli Valley about his recent online encounter with Meghan McCain.

Do you see monsters in the right-wingers you draw, just when you look at them, or does it emerge as you draw them?

You’re asking if I see them in—what’s that film noir word?

Chiaroscuro?

Yeah, thank you, no, I’m not quite a dog who sees things in, such, whatever. But I do see them as monstrous personalities, and ethically beyond the pale of what we’re supposed to be when we’re acting with empathy towards other humans, and I try to convey that in my art.

But I’ll be honest with you, it’s my personal aesthetic, I like drawing this way, even when I’m drawing friends. I find the art to be aesthetically appealing, but others might find it offensive.

—Reviews & Commentary. Tom Brevoort tries to glean as much info as he can via a close examination of the original art from Amazing Fantasy #15.

Even the logo for AMAZING FANTASY was redone from the version on the original Ditko version. This is due in part to the fact that, despite what legend has often said about it, AMAZING FANTASY #15 was not intended to be the final issue of the magazine when it was being put together. In fact, researcher Will Murray was able to lay out a compelling case for what the contents of AMAZING FANTASY #16 would have been, working off of the story job numbers written on each story’s splash and used for accounting purposes.

—Misc. Bill Frisell's got a new guitar with Jim Woodring art.

Mr Body

Today at The Comics Journal, we're pleased to share the opening salvo from Marc Singer's recent release with The University of Texas Press. If you like what you see--or you don't, either response is fine in a click-based economy--make sure you're here tomorrow for Marc's interview with us on the project.

My aim is not to belabor this or that point in an online dustup over a comic book, nor to choose sides between Wilson and Lepore. Instead I want to highlight the telling divergences between their critical approaches, but also the surprising convergences—for the only thing that was at all strange about this exchange, which followed well-worn formulas for criti­cal discussions of popular culture, was that both parties held one principal but unspoken assumption. Lepore’s review is indicative of the approach taken by many academics who are unfamiliar with comics: she doesn’t engage with the actual comic in any detail, doesn’t place it in the contexts of its publication or its genre, and doesn’t seem to think it merits any more sustained critical argument. Wilson’s response is equally indicative of the approach taken not only by fans and creators but by many academics who identify as fans and who are intimately familiar with the world of comics: defensive, anti-intellectual, and adamant that good criticism should be aspirational, Wilson also exempts comics from sustained critical argument if that argument should prove too unsympathetic. What one rules out in her offhand dismissal, the other rejects in favor of populist resentment. Neither approach is adequate to interpreting even the most mundane comics, particularly in an academic context. This book attempts to chart another course, showing how comics studies can benefit from more care­ful engagement with comics texts and their many material, historical, and cultural contexts.

Extending this debate to the academic study of comics requires an important caveat. It’s one thing to criticize Harvard scholar Jill Lepore for her breezy indifference, even when she’s writing for a popular magazine, but G. Willow Wilson is not an academic. This doesn’t indemnify her from criticism either, but it complicates any attempt to cast her comments as representative of the populist tendency in comics studies. However, many academics who work in comics studies share the same assumptions and make the same arguments, including the celebration of unreflective reading and the suspicion of academic scholarship. Sometimes they even take the opportunity to prescribe these values for the field as a whole.

Today's review comes to us via Leonard Pierce--and it's of James Sturm's Off Season. He's into it, friend.

Did the election split open new wounds in our psyches, or did it just expose the damage that was already there? That’s the question that shades every panel of James Sturm’s moving, disturbing, magnificent new graphic novel, Off Season. Politics doesn’t intrude in the narrative in any obvious or arbitrary way; it simply crowds into the lives of its characters in the same ways, big and little, that it does to us all. Off Season isn’t a book with a political axe to grind, in which ideology stands in for our personal problems; it’s a book that illustrates how politics is inextricable from our emotional lives, and functions as both an influence on and a reflection of our interior lives.

Over in Florida, a state I am flying directly towards, probably at the exact moment you are reading this, ReedPOP has continued its expansion: they took over the Florida Supercon. ReedPOP is the part of Reed Exhibition that handles a bunch of geek culture conventions, some of which have healthy comics components. I don't go to any of these shows, and i've worked professionally in comics longer than many of them have existed. It gives me great pleasure to ignore them on a near permanent basis.

One thing you shouldn't ignore is the Comics Journal Newsletter: the new one came out today. If you're a daily reader, well God bless you, but if you're not, the weekly Newsletter is the best way to keep up with what's happening here.

 

Composition Problems

Today on the site, we have a report from the new Naoki Urasawa exhibit in Los Angeles.

The Japan House gallery is accessed through its storefront, which is filled with a range of tastefully made, lovingly displayed Japanese housewares, decorations, and books. “This is MANGA!” features some elaborate installations, such as a “tent” of banners bearing series of striking Urasawa panels, as well as a map showing where he’s been published throughout the world. There’s a mannequin wearing the costume of “Friend,” the cult leader villain of 20th Century Boys, from the Japanese movie trilogy adaptation of the comic. A table out front has laminated recreations of notebooks Urasawa kept when he was young, which show off his early artistic progression.

But the show’s main element is a series of three-sided displays throughout the gallery, each of which is dedicated to a specific Urasawa series. With manga-style arrows helpfully telling visitors where to start and how to read, each side follows the process by which a manga page goes from concept to completion. This is illustrated via original art from Urasawa, with a wealth of nēmu (storyboards) provided for the show. There are around 400 pieces of such art in the exhibition, giving patrons a detailed look at the nuances of comic art, and helping laypeople understand how things like layout and framing play into one’s understanding of a scene.

Helen Chazan is here, too, with a review of Michel Fiffe's licensed GI Joe comic.

Blessed with the opportunity to tell his own stories at whatever pace he wants, Fiffe reanimates the cliches and visual licks of the comics that clog the quarter bins (and our hearts). Whether in the '80s superhero analogizing COPRA or the continuity calculus of Bloodstrike: Brutalists, Fiffe’s artistic exuberance doesn’t just make good comics, it makes for comics that make you want to read comics.

With GI Joe: Sierra Muerte, Fiffe continues his foray into personalized expansions of the quarter stack with an official tie-in comic from IDW, the patron saint publisher of glossy new toy commercials. Unlike previous works in this vein from Fiffe, there are some serious constraints on what he can do in this book. COPRA had the benefit of being an original story, albeit one populated by familiar faces with serial numbers filed off, and even Bloodstrike was continuing a narrative that honestly few people remained attached to (at least not moreso than Fiffe). GI Joe is not the media force it was in the mid-'80s, but it still is one, and Fiffe has both fan and publisher expectations to bear in mind on this title. There are genuine external constraints on this book - he can’t push the formula too far. And besides which, Fiffe is a diligent fan himself in many respects, and the house style of GI Joe is not quite as outlandish as some of the material he’s riffed on in the past. As such, there is something of a ceiling on the excitement of this comic that I haven’t really felt before in his comics. The storyline is captivating, but a little boilerplate, and the parade of characters tossed by the reader in issue one are entertaining but it’s hard to have much attachment to them without the excitement of prior familiarity. Even the visual flair seems a little tampered down in comparison to other Fiffe books, although still wildly experimental in comparison to anything else on the Wednesday racks.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Interviews & Profiles. At Smash Pages, Alex Dueben interviews Cathy G. Johnson about her new YA comic, her work as a teacher, and her podcast, among other things.

Drawing a Dialogue is a comics scholarship podcast that I do with my friend and peer e jackson, and it’s about putting comics into historical and educational contexts. So we’ll take a topic that pertains to comics, such as transgender identity or autism, and then we will share academic research with our listeners to broaden our collective understanding of comics. My segment of the podcast is particularly about education. I am part of the equity and inclusion committee at the school I work for now, and it’s something that we talk about a lot, that people’s knowledge about subjects limits us and can gatekeep others. This is also true in publishing and the art world. So our effort with the podcast is to take knowledge out of the ivory tower and change the conversation around comic books, to hopefully create a more equitable future.

The New Yorker has an ultra-brief interview with Jaime Hernandez.

Nadja Sayej at The Guardian has a brief profile of Robert Crumb to go along with his current exhibit at the David Zwirner Gallery in New York, images of which have been posted over at The Paris Review's site.

—Reviews & Commentary. I usually try to avoid spending much time covering superhero movies, but because this is an issue that also bleeds into comics, I thought I'd link to two recent articles on complaints that Captain Marvel demonstrates a too-cozy relationship between Marvel and the United States military.

Behind the language of representation and inclusion, some critics see evidence of a problematic relationship between Captain Marvel and the Air Force, which had an active role in the film’s production, received numerous plugs throughout its promotion, and assisted in publicizing the movie. The film comes at a time when the Air Force faces a severe shortage of pilots (especially women), a recent “readiness” crisis due to its fleet of aging aircrafts, and a worsening epidemic of sexual misconduct. Even with all this baggage, the Air Force plans on expanding back to Cold War-levels, making public opinion more important than ever.

Over the course of the production, the Air Force gave the film access to Air Force historians, Edwards Air Force Base, and Air Force-operated F-15Cs, according to Lt. Col. Nathan Broshear, director of the Air Force Entertainment Liaison Office, who was the project lead officer for Captain Marvel. During the film’s pre-release marketing, the Air Force performed at least two flyovers to publicize its opening, one at Disneyland and another at the Hollywood premiere. Broshear says that “all costs are passed on to the production company.”

Derik Badman writes about a recent Sam Glanzman collection.

[The] first issue is just totally crazy. The Admiral of the submarine has this long vision of the destruction of New York City due to the effect of what “the Enemy” has done in the Mariana Trench to cause sea levels to rise. In a most unusual move, throughout all four of these issues the antagonist is always just referred to as “the Enemy”, never seen, never named, never explained in the even the slightest way (are they aliens? is it a they or a single individual? why do they keep trying to destroy the world via created natural disasters?). I do notice on rereading a panel that shows a mysterious looking clawed glove crumbling a map of the United States, but the sketchy panel borders on that image make it read like another vision not a glimpse of the actual Enemy (oddly, it reminds me of the gloved antagonist in the Inspector Gadget cartoon).

—Misc. Eli Vally and Meghan McCain had an interesting exchange on Twitter last week.

Monster Brains has a great gallery of Gahan Wilson cartoons up right now.

Pew Pew Pew

Today at The Comics Journal, we're pleased to share Oliver Ristau's take on an exhibition of Émilie Plateau and Jul Gordon's work, which is taking place until March 23rd in Bremen, Germany. 

Serving as a model was also a point brought up while I was talking to dessinatrices Émilie Plateau from France and Germany's Jul Gordon during an exhibition of their creative work, which wasn't limited to the showing of drawings alone. After years of publishing fanzines – Gordon with the Tiny Masters bunch consisting of the likes of Anna Haifisch or G.W. Duncanson, Plateau with the collective Nos Restesfounded by Belgium's conscientious objector to mainstream comics Jérôme Puigros-Puigener – both now share first-time releases of their comics in hardback editions. You can read this as another manifestation in terms of reification by emerging from the world of self-made zines and their fleeting nature.

And here we are at Day Five of Jesse Reklaw's Cartoonist Diary, where things get meta, and he reads...Cartoonist Diaries, here at TCJ? I did not see that coming.

Today's review comes to us from Tegan O'Neil--she's fallen pretty hard for Julie Delporte's This Women's Work.

I’ve always loved books assembled from artist’s sketchbooks: there’s no more exciting version of comics to me than something small and intricate made by hand and reproduced in such a way as to not merely preserve but to lionize the format’s material limitations. It’s hard to forget that we are supposed to be reading someone’s personal narrative when the story comes in the form of a personal scrapbook or illustrated notebook. A few years back I noticed that more and more books I was receiving from women artists seemed to be going for a raw and studiously rough presentation in terms of medium and execution - specifically, directly reproduced colored pencils seemed to be multiplying. Eventually I came to see the move - a widespread gesture with clear roots in Lynda Berry’s nonfiction comics, among many others - as a studied turn away from the hyperfocus and discipline of the masculine-coded industrial precision of turn-of-the-millennium comics auteurs, to say nothing of the pervasive slickness of most computer-based commercial art in 2019. There’s room to breathe here. Negative space isn’t bound by tight panel grids. She mentions Louise Bourgeois at a couple points throughout the narrative, and you can actually see the influence, with swaths of minimal, almost primary color set as stark central design motifs at various points.

In the streamlining services department, Image has shut down a subscription service called Image Direct. Based off the laziest form or research--looking at the reactions in the two places that acknowledged this news initially, which was Bleeding Cool and reddit, it doesn't seem like this was a very well-used service that Image offered, and should not be used as proof of any one particular argument or theory about the future of the direct market. Unless you really want to, of course.

Heidi MacDonald watched Fox & Friends so that you don't have to, and she's got the tapes to prove it. Ben Marra's team up with Joe Casey--six years in the making, you're welcome--featuring our Lord and Savior in full hyperviolent regalia was the current topic du jour on that television show. Please to enjoy!

On the Margins

Kim Jooha returns today with a look at the work of Stefanie Leinhos, which Jooha considers to be a kind of "conceptual comics" akin to conceptual art.

The impression of eternity generated by the repeated image appears again in The Long Goodbye (2014, Printed by Stephan Rosentreter & Photo by Peter Hermans). The "long" in the title acknowledges the endlessness. The forever departure has another conceptual meaning in addition to the appearance of the work. According to the artist:

The drawings … were made directly on the zinc plates and only existed for the time being of the printing process itself. The plates were washed out afterwards and handed over to the next user.

Say Goodbye to the original drawing and Hello to the original print!

The original is destroyed, and the reproduced becomes (the nearest to) the original. In The Long Goodbye, Leinhos literally erases the privilege of the original.

And we have day four of Jesse Reklaw's week contributing our Cartoonist's Diary.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—News. Wiley Miller has issued an apology for the anti-Trump message found in a recent strip, which led to a number of newspapers cancelling Non Sequitur.

Remorse is an understatement. I'm gutted by my own poor judgment.

"Non Sequitur" has been my pride and joy, as well as livelihood, in a cartooning career that has spanned 42 years. The strip has been in print 27 years, and garnered many awards. During that time, I've drawn just shy of 10,000 strips, and not a single one contained such a vulgar, foolish, unprofessional "venting."

CRNI has written a letter to the Supreme Court of California defending Ted Rall in his recent case against the Los Angeles Times.

Of course we recognize that Mr Rall’s case differs in the scale and gravity of the alleged criminality at its heart, (neither jaywalking nor the allegedly exaggerated blog post are acts of sedition) but the intent and effect of the ensuing events have produced alarmingly similar results. That a freelance cartoonist could be expected to pay the legal fees of one of the country’s largest and most powerful news outlets seems an injustice so skewed as to be clearly intimidating to other writers and artists. That the incident involves the police could be construed as a further warning against challenging the authorities. Those in positions of power have seized upon an opportunity to silence a critic and serious, perhaps irreparable, damage has been done to the career of a popular and acclaimed cartoonist.

—Interviews. I missed this recent interview with Yoshiharu Tsuge at Zoom Japan.

Starting in 2019, your work will be translated into both French and English. It was quite a long wait, though.

T. Y.: You wonder why it took so long?… It’s hard to explain… For a long time I tried to escape other people’s attention. I’ve never liked to be put under the spotlight. I only wanted to lead a quiet life. In Japan we say ite inai, which means living on the margins, not really being engaged with society, trying to be almost invisible if you like.

Beginnings

Today at The Comics Journal, we've got another go round with Josh Kramer--today, he's speaking to James Sturm about all the various life experiences that ended up getting poured into the creation funnel on the way towards the creation of Off Season, his most recent graphic novel with Drawn & Quarterly.

This is kind of a different mode for you to work in. So many of your books are set in the past, in America or Eastern Europe. How did it feel to be working in a contemporary setting?

I liked it. I liked that it reengaged me to my surroundings. That car that Mark drove, I’ve sold it since then, but it was my car at the time. That house that he’s doing construction on is basically my house. The snowstorm, the streets, those are all Upper Valley. The tire place, etc. I really enjoyed that.

I remember, within a week or two of the election, talking to the cartoonist Summer Pierre and both of us expressing a visceral need to just draw things in front of us. That was that big question after the election: why weren’t we paying attention? And it was my big question, after being conned. This need to just kinda ground yourself, as opposed to all the online stuff, and even doing historial stuff, you are pulling resources offline and looking in archives.

For another taste of contemporary life, we've got Jesse Reklaw with the second day of his Cartoonist Diary. Today, he's using one artform to describe another!

My apologies for today's late and abrupt blog entry. It's my daughter's sixth birthday, and we have brownie sundaes to eat.

How to Make God Laugh

Today on the site, Greg Hunter concludes his two-part look at how the character of RoboCop was used in comics, and whether or not the satire and social commentary of the original film survived its adaptations...

After departing Dynamite, RoboCop found his next home at Boom!, which adopted an approach similar to Avatar’s, bringing in Steven Grant to adapt Frank Miller’s unused screenplay for the third RoboCop film, this time with artist Korkut Öztekin. The result, the RoboCop: Last Stand mini-series (2013), is a diminished work, even by the measure of Frank Miller’s RoboCop (Avatar). Whereas Miller’s original screenplay for RoboCop 2 managed to approximate RoboCop’s post-human manneredness, the Miller script Grant uses for Last Stand gives the character stock noir dialogue. The story’s take on a corroded Detroit is also more perfunctory; when readers see a commercial for something like the forced reprogramming of rude children, it has a direct link to Last Stand’s larger plot. The work here resembles The Spirit (2008), a film in which unchecked Millerisms smother the identity of its source text.

Last Stand begins with RoboCop in hiding, framed for a series of murders but committed to protecting Detroit’s most vulnerable. The city’s police force has collapsed, and RoboCop is effectively at war with OCP, aided by a rogue engineer and RoboCop super-fan named Marie Lacasse. Battles rage within OCP as well, allowing Faxx, a scheming researcher, to rise to the top. Faxx, whose work involves “molding [a person’s] existing personality to a more socially acceptable matrix,” is a character nearly identical to Margaret Love of Frank Miller’s RoboCop, down to Last Stand’s irony-free attempts at titillation. These resemblances occur often throughout the series; it’s a wonder Boom! had any confidence Last Stand might stand on its own. The comics read not just like an echo of the film RoboCop 3 or Grant’s Miller adaptation at Avatar but also of Miller’s other works.

Jesse Reklaw is here, too, with the second day of his Cartoonist's Diary.

And Josh Kramer has a review of Lucy Knisley's pregnancy memoir, Kid Gloves.

Before I get into reviewing Lucy Knisley’s new book, Kid Gloves: Nine Months of Careful Chaos, I need to own up to something. Until giving Kid Gloves a serious read, I thought of Knisley solely as a memoirist. Her five autobiographical graphic novels recall the mostly charmed twenties of a middle class American white woman.

Knisley has long acknowledged her privilege. "I am lucky. I am aware of that," she writes in 2014’s An Age of License. "Yes, I make work about food and art & travel BUT THERE IS MEANING IN IT if to no one else but me."

And clearly others have found meaning in her work as well. Knisley is an award-winning and New York Times best-selling author. She attended both the School of the Art Institute and The Center for Cartoon Studies. [I did also but we did not cross paths.] Six books by age 34 is no small accomplishment. But here’s the thing — I was wrong about her.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—News. This weekend brought the announcement of one of our greatest living cartoonists, Gahan Wilson, is suffering from dementia, and in need of help with funds for medical care. His stepson has set up a GoFundMe site here.

Gahan and my mother had been residing in an assisted living facility in Arizona. With my mother's passing, the facility is about to discharge him. We must find him a memory care facility immediately.

—Interviews & Profiles. The most recent guest on RiYL is Mimi Pond, and the most recent guest on Virtual Memories is James Sturm.

No Ledge

Today at The Comics Journal, we're starting up another Cartoonist Diary--this time, it's with Jesse Reklaw. His week starts off with Tai Chi! I'm already at superfan level.

That's not the only thing we're launching--today also sees the first installment of Greg Hunter's two-part study in Robocop comic books. Young people may only have heard of Robocop via a series of Kentucky Fried Chicken commercials featuring the character, but prior to those appearances, the character was featured in multiple comic books. Mr. Hunter, please to enjoy:

Numerous iterations of RoboCop after 1987 exist outside of comics: two film sequels, a reboot, and multiple television series, none of which benefited from Verhoeven’s black humor or the push into the grotesque he gives eighties action-violence. Even a couple of the non-comics spin-offs have a notable sequential connection: Frank Miller. Coming off the success of The Dark Knight Returns (1986), Miller turned to Hollywood, with mixed results. Although he received a story and a co-screenwriting credit for RoboCop 2 (1990), the final film is far afield from Miller’s vision for the sequel. Miller returned to work on RoboCop 3 (1993), again receiving a story and a co-screenwriting credit, with the finished movie again disappointing him. “Don’t be the writer,” Miller later said of the experience. “The director’s got the power. The screenplay is a fire hydrant, and there’s a row of dogs around the block waiting for it.”

The experience may have slowed Miller’s cinematic rise, but it did not mean a break with the RoboCop character. Before the release of the third film, Miller scripted perhaps RoboCop’s best-known comics appearance, the RoboCop Versus the Terminator mini-series (Dark Horse, 1992). At this stage, Miller maintained much of his deftness as a comics writer. He neatly combined the two franchises through the premise that RoboCop’s merger of human and machine supplied the self-awareness necessary for the eventual robot takeover of the Terminator films. (At first, the story’s Terminator machines seek not to destroy RoboCop but to defend him from a time-traveling revolutionary.) Miller also writes for his artist, Walter Simonson, a heavy hitter in his own right.

Our review for the day is of the first volume of Mob Psycho 100, courtesy of Tom Shapira. He's on the fence, but leaning pleased.

ONE’s other major effort is Mob Psycho 100, which ran from 2012 to 2017 and is just now being published in English translation. Looking at the surface it would be easy to criticize Mob Psyco 100 as derivative of the author’s previous work; the focus of the first volume is on ghosts and psychic powers instead of superheroes but otherwise much is the same: like Saitama the protagonist of the story, Shigeo Kageyama AKA Mob (as in ‘one of the mob,’ not a gangster) is overtly powerful in a way that allows him to end any conflict easily; like Saitama his biggest issue is his passivity which allows the danger to flourish until he finally arrives to deal with it; just as in One Punch Man there is a con-man who uses the hero’s powers to advance his social statue. Both series seem to exist as an inversion of popular shonentropes – in series such as DragonballBleach and Naruto the hero must become stronger through a series of fights, life as endless struggle that demands constants self-improvement. Both One Punch Man and Mob Psycho 100 start with hero already the strongest one there is and work from there.

Yet despite these similarities it would be wrong to brush aside Mob Psycho 100 as a case of second album syndrome. First, because even if it operates within the same perimeters they are narrow enough to make it feel unique compared to other works; second, because we often allow beloved creators to offer a corpus of work that is undeniably of similar bent; and third, because Mob Psycho 100 is just good; which probably trumps all other arguments. 

RIP Keith.

Bah

Big day on TCJ today. First, we have Alex Dueben's interview with Silver Age cartoonist Joe Giella.

You mentioned talking with Whit Ellsworth. Over the years did you have a lot of interaction with writers?

No, absolutely not. My relationship in comics was with the editor. I worked with Julie Schwartz for 45 years. He was a tough guy to work with but he was fair. We became very good friends right to the end. He was a tough editor. You tell him you’re going to deliver and if you didn’t deliver, you were finished. One time he said he could set his clock on me because I was never late. The one time I knew I was going to be late was when my dad passed away, but I alerted Julie and Julie understood.

So you would work more with Julie Schwartz and Mort Weisinger than the writers.

Oh god, Mort Weisinger. [laughs] He may have been a very talented writer but it was not easy working with Mort Weisinger. I quit the Batman strip twice after he offered it to me. For Mort it was a feather in his cap if he could go to DC and say, I got Joe to do the strip for only X amount of dollars. I would have been making less than I did in the comics – and I had to do carpentry work to make a living at the time. At that time doing a syndicated strip was the pinnacle for an artist. I really wanted to do it, but not on his terms.

The other person people ask me about is Carmine. He’s the one I collaborated with on The Flash and a few other characters. Carmine was an excellent – and underline excellent – layout man. His style was to draw this way and his concentration was on the layouts. That’s what he excelled at.

Glynnis Fawkes is here with the fifth and final day of her tenure creating our Cartoonist's Diary.

And finally, we also have a Tegan O'Neil's review of Corto Maltese: Secret Rose.

The Secret Rose should probably not be anyone’s first exposure to Hugo Pratt. This is later Pratt at his most esoteric, clogged to the arteries with ambiguous literary references masquerading as pointedly elliptical conversation. A gripping mens’ adventure yarn in the mood of Caniff? Certainly not! A trip to visit Herman Hesse in the Swiss countryside of 1924, that sounds more the ticket. At times, this album seems to live down to certain stereotypes held in English-speaking precincts regarding Eurocomics conventions - behold a tough guy stereotype from American adventure stories, your cowboy or your back robber or sea captain, sipping his drink at the bar before slipping out with the shadows to desultorily sock some local toughs on the jaw. But first he’s got some wry comments to make about Malraux, and doesn’t that woman have large breasts in the most literary way?

You can see the traces of early and consistent Caniff worship in Pratt’s faces, horizontal smears of ink to indicate mouths. Corto Maltese is always smiling but it’s a feline smile, the corners of the line of his mouth just barely creased. The smallest flick of the artist’s wrist. The present volume offers less of Corto Maltese socking local toughs and more an extended dream sequence wherein the protagonist undertakes a quest for the Holy Grail after falling asleep reading a copy of Wolfram von Eschenbach’s thirteenth century romance Parzifal. As one does. He wanders through a dream landscape inspired by certain American movies that hadn’t been produced yet in 1924, such as King King. More importantly he wanders into long and subtle dialogue with figures from medieval illustrations. The subject of these deliberations for much of the colloquy is a figure named Klingsor, a marginal figure in Arthuriana who serves as a foil for Parzifal, but who is also alluded to in Hesse’s “Klingsor’s Last Summer.”

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—News. DragonCon co-founder Ed Kramer has been jailed again, after being arrested for allegedly taking photographs of a young boy at a doctor's office.

Kramer pleaded guilty to three counts of child molestation in 2013 and was sentenced to an aggregate of 20 years, with the first five to be served in home confinement. He is no longer on house arrest, but still wears an ankle monitor.

On his Facebook page, cartoonist Milton Knight has reported being the victim of a hate crime.

The cops came. I went to the hospital. Cuts, a broken nose and more. He went to the same hospital; he had busted a fist!! I pressed charges; he went to jail for battery.

—Reviews & Commentary. Brian Nicholson writes about Segar's Popeye.

While other masterpieces of the first half of the twentieth century comics page, like George Herriman’s Krazy Kat or Winsor McKay’s Little Nemo are definitely acquired tastes, Popeye was not only popular enough to make its creator a rich man back in the day, it remains functional as populist entertainment today. I feel pretty “what’s not to like?” about it, and would recommend it to whoever. It’s funny, the characters are good, there’s adventures. The humor is three quarters sitcom style character work and one quarter the sort of silliness that verges on absurdism.

Blade, Blade, Also, Blade

Today at the Comics Journal, it's time for our monthly visit to the Fiffe Files. This time, Michel is taking a look--a bit under protest, initially--at the Justice Society of America, and in doing so, he thinks he might have discovered a whole new style of reading.

It made me see "the page" differently. I didn't look at it with the expectation of natural transitions and "realistic" dialogue, I saw it as a map of information. Some of those panels are stuffed to the gills with characters in motion, bumping into one another, spouting battle cries and plot beats with identical vigor. Little of it makes sense -- visually or narratively -- if you apply a traditional read.

In today's installment of A Cartoonist's Diary, Glynnis Fawkes gets explicit about the costs--today for a family and tomorrow for us all--of short-sighted education cuts. I saw a thing last week on another comic site (a site that should know better) dismissing comics on topics like these as being slice-of-life trifles. I couldn't disagree more.

Today's review sees Helen Chazan falling pretty hard for Joe Kessler's Windowpane.

Windowpane, Joe Kessler’s debut graphic novel from Breakdown Press, collects four stories from the one-man anthology of the same name. However, rather than taking the form of a compilation for those who missed the single issues, the stories in Windowpane are deliberately arranged to speak to each other and continue into a larger thematic story, at once aesthetic and humane. As in James Joyce’s Dubliners, the disparate people in Kessler’s world constitute a grander narrative from youth to maturity. Kessler explores perspectives on experiences from different angles to attain a profound insight.

While I do wonder what sort of long term damage Douglas Wolk is doing to himself via his All The Marvels project, his struggle continues to bear some pretty ridiculous fruit.

Bleeding Cool picked up on the comics connections that Variety ignored in a story about Chris Fenton, one of those ancillary parasites who put in time at various comics companies trying to squirt movie deals out of whatever intellectual properties haven't already been beaten to death. Allegedly put in time. I hope he wins all the money in the world, i'm sure he'll use it for something really cool.

I'd always wondered why my pal Dominic Umile leaves his byline at TCJ out of his bio, and now I know: he was angling for some of that sweet LA Times money. His first piece with them, on Brian Fies A Fire Story, is up now.

Over at The MNT, Claire Napier lays the case out against DC for their de-prioritization of artists in some of their upcoming titles in the DC Zoom & DC Ink line. It's an area DC has failed in before--and as Napier points out, it's a failure whose impact doesn't end with the artist. 

Never Dreamed He Could Do This

Columnist Ken Parille is here today, and lately he's been feeling old.

I’m in my fifties, which, according to some, makes me old. Given that “50 is the new 40” (or "the new 30” or whatever), perhaps I’m not quite “senior” (though a few months ago, I got a senior discount on auto parts). They say you’re only as old as you feel — and I feel old. Especially when I enter that dangerous territory known as “online comics criticism.” As a part-time “comics critic,” I’m part of a world that worships the young. It’s fine, I suppose, to venerate youth; I certainly wish mine wasn’t receding into the past with such debilitating speed. What’s weird to me is that many of comics’ enlightened thinkers — critics and cartoonists who say they reject discriminatory rhetoric and its binary logic — eagerly use age categories as weapons. For them, young is good, old is bad. Put a little more directly, the online world of comics criticism is ageist AF.

Perhaps nowhere is this ageism more visible than in commentary surrounding the new Nancy comic strip. If you like it, great. But if you don’t, prepare to receive the absolute sickest of burns: “You are old.” Originated by Ernie Bushmiller in 1938, Nancy was recently revived by a cartoonist using the pseudonym “Olivia Jaimes.” I like most of Jaimes’s new daily and Sunday strips a lot. Others are solid, a few are bland, some are repetitive (too many cell phone gags), and some I just don’t get (likely ’cause I’m old). If you think the new Nancy is, like her pal Sluggo, “lit,” I’m perfectly ok with that (and if you haven’t read the comic, I recommend it). If you hate it and think it was only good when Bushmiller did it, I'm fine with that, too. I might have some trouble with anyone who thinks Guy Gilchrist is the best Nancy cartoonist. But even then, whatever.

Glynnis Fawkes is here, too, with the third installment of her Cartoonist's Diary.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—News. Mo Willems has been named the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts' first Education Artist-in-Residence.

Throughout the two-year residency, Willems and the Kennedy Center will develop new works for children, former children, and their families; curate collaborative experiences across artistic genres that spark creativity and invite hands-on, multigenerational audience engagement; and consult with the Center's Education division, which serves students, adults, and communities nationwide.

The New York Review of Books has named its new editors, Emily Greenhouse and Gabriel Winslow-Yost. I don't know if the same is true of Greenhouse, but Winslow-Yost will be probably the most comics-conversant editor of a prestigious literary magazine since Nicole Rudick was at The Paris Review.

—Interviews. At The New Yorker, Emily Allen interviews Mort Gerberg.

The show encompasses not just your single-panel gag work for The New Yorker, but reportage, syndicated strips, drawings for short animations. How and why did you develop such a diverse practice?

I think there were two main reasons. One was to produce an income. And secondly was because I was following some natural interests. In regard to the first part, when I started doing cartoons, which I guess technically was in the early sixties, and I was working my way up, the smaller magazines that were first available to me were paying maybe five, ten, twenty-five dollars. That meant I had to do a lot of drawings, make a lot of sales. Then, gradually, I worked my way up the ladder—Saturday Evening Review, Saturday Post, Look magazine, Esquire, then I sold to Playboy, and then, finally, a few years later, started to sell to The New Yorker. But still, and I think this is true for all cartoonists, it was just not possible to make a really decent living by selling to one or two magazines, even if you’re selling to The New Yorker. You needed something else.